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Increasing Instructor Presence in the Online Classroom


 

Meeting the needs of students today has become more of a challenge for many. In the current pandemic, the skillset of the online learner has shifted. The online student today is not your traditional online learner. The student we see enrolled in online classes often prefers a traditional face-to-face format. Due to the pandemic and safety measures in place, they are forced into an online environment if they wish to pursue their education. Maintaining a presence in an asynchronous environment is essential for their success.

Tips to enhance your presence in asynchronous courses:

Welcoming Students to Your Course

Educators often send out welcome letters or announcements at the start of the semester to students. How about trying a welcome video? This way the students can “meet” you virtually and get to know your personality. We lose the tone of ourselves in written format. Items to consider including in a video are:

  • Your experience as an educator
  • Educational background
  • Tips for student success
  • Best methods of contact
  • Share a story about yourself
  • Show off your pets
  • Do’s and Don’ts for your class
  • Pet Peeves
  • Anything else you feel is important in letting the student know who you are.

Weekly Announcements

Weekly announcements or reminders are an excellent way to keep in touch with your students. Students often appreciate and look forward to updates from their instructors that offer additional support. These announcements can be written, a brief video, or a combination of the two. One benefit of the virtual classroom is that it is easy to set out expectations for the week with clear guidelines and resources for students.

  • Remind students of important due dates. Reviewing reading material and assignments verbally can help the audio learner and students that are not as organized stay on track.
  • Provide detailed instructions in these announcements and anticipate questions (Hankins, 2016).
  • Remind students to set up their LMS account to receive announcements via email or on their phones so these messages are not missed.
  • Share a video or interesting article that pertains to the week’s content. Helping students connect the material to real-world happenings can deeper their understanding of the content.

All these announcements can be scheduled in your LMS and post at various times throughout the week to best fit your course design and schedule. This also ensures you can spend class time teaching, not reviewing the to-dos in-depth for the week.

Online Tools For Support

Panopto allows you to screen share and record your voice so that you can navigate through your class and show them things that they may have difficulty finding. You can do a walk-through of your LMS setup to help them navigate.

  • Remember not all students are comfortable in this online environment. Therefore, showing them how to navigate early in the semester can eliminate many stressful situations as well as an abundance of emails asking for clarification and help.
  • Take this opportunity to share additional information on assignments that may be more challenging for students. This verbal explanation can help students relate and comprehend the details of the assignment.
  • The videos you send to your students are best kept to 3-5 minutes.
  • Panopto also has an option for you to record a video of you talking if you are comfortable being on camera. This is an easy-to-use site that takes a couple of clicks on your recording your screen or yourself! You can choose to save it on Panopto or send it to YouTube. Either way, closed captioning is included in both formats.  

Flipgrid is best for meaningful, insightful discussions where students can express their understanding of class content. Discussion can take place as structured prompts or informal activities and conversation starters (Columbia University, 2021). The social facet of college has nearly vanished for students (Jacobson, 2020). While Flipgrid is completed in an asynchronous format, it can be helpful for providing students with the human connection that many students are missing as they're separated from friends and families the past year and no longer in face-to-face classes.

This is a video discussion rather than a written one.  

A few example activities:

  • Create a model of a neuron or brain with household items.
  • Solve a math problem so you can see the steps the students take.
  • Give an oral presentation on an event in history.
  • Create a poster for a marketing campaign.
  • This allows you to have classroom presentations in an asynchronous learning environment. Students can watch the videos of their classmates and record a video reply just as if they were in the classroom watching, learning, and conversing with their peers.
  • A time savor for grading in Flipgrid is the ability to speed up the video. If your students record a two-minute video, you can change the setting to listen to it in half the time or adjust as you see fit.
  • As the instructor, you can provide written instructions, or you can record your video own video with the instructions or examples you wish to share with them.   

Social presence is a crucial model in distance education (Wang, 2010). Online, remote, and hybrid learning has taken on a new form for students and instructors. While this has been an adjustment for many, it is important to continue to offer support to students and maintain a social presence. It can be challenging to reach online students and make them feel as if they are supported outside traditional classes. Instructor presence in online education has been shown to improve the experiences of students enrolled (Huezo, 2017).


References:

Columbia University. (2021). Learning Through Synchronous and Asynchronous Discussion. Retrieved from Columbia University: https://ctl.columbia.edu/resources-and-technology/teaching-with-technology/teaching-online/discussion/

Hankins, A. (2016, July 15). Five Ways to Help Students Succeed in the Online Classroom. Retrieved from Faculty Focus: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/five-ways-help-students-succeed-online-classroom/#:~:text=Five%20Ways%20to%20Help%20Students%20Succeed%20in%20the,in%20an%20online%20classroom%20are%20no%20exception

Huezo, E. (2017, March 16). 5 Ways to Increase your Online Instructor Presence. Retrieved from insider: 5 Ways to Increase your Online Instructor Presence

Jacobson, S. (2020, October 01). Students struggle to adapt to online classes. Retrieved from The Spectrum: https://www.ubspectrum.com/article/2020/10/students-struggle-to-adapt-to-online-classes 

Wang, H. (2010, February 18). Eight Ways to Increase Social Presence in Your Online Classes. Retrieved from Faculty Focus: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/online-course-delivery-and-instruction/eight-ways-to-increase-social-presence-in-your-online-classes/

About the Author

My name is Catherine Matson and I have been teaching for over a decade in the Behavioral Science Department, Health Services Department, and Human Service Department online and in the classroom. I teach or have taught at a variety of 2-year and 4-year institutions throughout the Chicagoland area. Some of the colleges are: at Triton College, Moraine Valley Community College, College of Lake County, Wilbur Wright College, Harper College, Aurora University, Roosevelt University, Columbia College of Missouri, National Louis University, Purdue University Northwest. McHenry County College, Waubonsee Community College, and Rock Valley College. I hold a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, Masters degree in Counseling and PhD of Philosophy in General Psychology. In addition, I have 18 credit hours towards a Masters in Higher Education. I worked counseling parents and children of special needs and behavioral problems for a period of time when I was first starting my teaching career. In the field, my current role is crisis intervention. I complete assessments for children and adults that are suicidal, homicidal, struggle with addiction, or having behavior issues.

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